Wim Wenders’ 1987 masterpiece of moment, the stupendously accomplished city symphony “Wings of Desire” (Der Himmel über Berlin), rises to poetry, surveys a walled city, looks upon its humans, within their dreams, descends to the circus and the barroom and the fleeting refractions of winding thought. Bruno Ganz, an angel, falls in love with a trapeze artist (Wenders then-inamorata Solveig Dommartin) and decides he would rather be human, forsaking immortality for two beating hearts.
Along the way, he meets Peter Falk (playing “Peter Falk,” and very well), a fallen angel who offers sweetly odd advice. The perspectives on then-divided Berlin, German history, the circus, romance, music, black-and-white versus color, all shimmer with love and intelligence. Some of the finest of writer Peter Handke’s work, influenced by Rainer Maria Rilke, is on generous offer. Henri Alekan’s camerawork, poetry upon poetry, is particularly fine. Wenders, of course, supervised this 4K digital restoration, and word and image alike sear the soul. (The original release prints of “Wings of Desire” were struck on color stock; the digital restoration allows the black-and-white passages to conform to Wenders’ original design.) “Dedicated to all the former angels, but especially to Yasujiro, Francois and Andrej” (Ozu, Truffaut and Tarkovsky). With Nick Cave, Otto Sander, Curt Bois, Kid Congo, Blixa Bargeld. 127m. (Ray Pride)
“Wings of Desire” opens Friday, December 28 at Siskel.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.